Ruby by playwright Kevin Dyer, moves from disaster to hope as she discovers strength through the support of those around her. Through a series of insightful conversations with teens who face struggles with inner thoughts and neurodiversity, Kevin has crafted a fast paced, truthful, and theatrical portrayal of Ruby's everyday mental health journey. To celebrate this new piece, we sat down with Kevin to talk about this important theatrical work!
Kevin became a writer at the age of nine and a half when his teacher, Mister Fox, typed up a story he had written. The fact that one month later the nice Mr. Fox ran him over in his car (true!) did not deter him. He is now a playwright with over 50 commissioned plays behind him.
Ruby tells the story of a typical school day for a girl who lives with anxiety. Why is this story important?
We now understand that we all have mental health – just like we have physical health. We also know that talking about our MH is almost always good for us. So this play is us, as a society, having a conversation about how ordinary young people who go to school can have real mess going on inside their heads. Watching the play allows us to see someone who maybe has similar troubles to ourself – and that allows us to think about (and then, afterwards, talk about) what it felt like for Ruby, how Ruby coped, and maybe what it is like for us as an empathizing audience member.
Can you tell us about the creation process?
I spoke to – and more importantly, listened to – dozens of teenagers about their lives and what is going on in their heads. In particular, I spent time with the youth theatre at The Brewery in Kendal in England. (the brewery doesn’t make beer anymore: it’s now an arts center.) I then wrote a first draft and played it back to them… and then it was my turn to listen as they talked about the play and more about themselves. Then I wrote more drafts. Quite a lot of them! I had especial help from a young woman called Jen, who came into rehearsals, read in when an actor was missing, and was also going through counselling following a terrible time at school.
What do you hope audiences take away from this story?
We often feel alone, but usually there is someone willing to help. We have to keep a tiny crack in our defensive wall open, to let that helpful person in.
Also, I promise you, you are not the only person in the room feeling shy, awkward, worthless, or all those other words. I know I tell myself when I have to go into crowded ‘party’- like places (where I feel particularly vulnerable) that lots of people feel the same. That helps me.
Also, I hope people watch the play and just enjoy the theatricality of it – the stuff with the rope, the throwing of the chairs, the woman at school who is meant to be helping, but is pretty useless. Also, how the play represents Ruby – played by more than one performer. That’s pretty cool (hopefully!)
Where can audiences find out more about your work?
or through PNA.
Or I live in North Wales. Come round for a cup of tea. The kettle is always on.